Thursday, September 23, 2010

Safe Infant Sleep ~ Symposium coming soon!

This is another one of those H got herself into something and now she's going to endorse it posts.  You are officially forewarned. 

So, what are you doing next Saturday?  You know, October 2nd?  Around 12ish?

Nothing?  Great!

Oh, you're doing something?  Well, you're still not off the hook.  The laundry can wait, the grass can be mowed this weekend (it won't grow much next week, I don't think), and the kids can visit with grandma (tell her I said so).

'Cause this is important.

On October 2, 2010 Birth Matters will host Fort Wayne's first Safe Infant Sleep Symposium.  The Symposium is free to the public and will provide evidence-based, up-to-date information and guidelines for safe infant sleep in cribs, bassinets, co-sleepers, and parents' beds.

In addition to the three speakers who will present, the Symposium will feature free giveaway bags to the first 100 families/individuals in the door, as well as giveaway items (Arm's Reach Co-sleeper, anyone?), and a silent auction featuring family friendly products such as Halo Sleep Sacks, co-sleepers, and baby carriers.

Speakers for this event will include Dr. Christopher Tallo, a Fort Wayne Pediatrician; Dr. Robert White, an Indiana Neonatologist; and Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, Chair of Notre Dame's Department of Anthropology, member of the SIDS Global Task Force, and consultant to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Safe Infant Sleep.  Whoo!  That's a mouthful!

You're probably asking yourself, What's this all about?  Or Why is H so worked up about this event?

You are in luck: I'm going to tell you.

What's this all about?
In case you weren't aware, Allen County has a ridiculously high infant mortality rate.  Like, crazy high.  For example, among the African American population in Allen County, the infant mortality rate is comparable to several third-world countries.  Last I checked, Allen County was located in a developed nation where people have access to food, shelter, health care, etc., regardless of whether they have any money.  Even if Allen County was far more underpriviledged than the rest of the country, which it isn't, social service programs should fill in a lot of the gaps that contribute to infant mortality.

And yet, we have all these babies dying what are apparently preventable deaths.

Indiana Department of Child Services and an enormous chunk of Indiana officials have decided that a large number of these deaths are occuring because babies are sleeping in unsafe sleep conditions.  I have no idea how they came to that conclusion, but after working with Birth Matters on the symposium and hearing about conversations with local officials, I've no doubt that a lot of babies are dying because they aren't sleeping safely.  And that is a shame, mostly because these babies are so precious and because unsafe sleep deaths are so preventable.

There's a definate, documented need for families in our county to learn more about safe infant sleep.  Birth Matters is stepping up to educate and empower families about their safe sleep options.

Why is H so worked up about this event?
Here's where it gets a little tricky.

You see, when the Indiana Department of Child Services decided to get concerned about unsafe sleep deaths, their approach to preventing these deaths was to tell parents to never, ever, ever sleep with their babies.

Which makes absolutely no sense in light of the fact that in cultures where cosleeping is the norm, SIDS rates are minimal or non-existant.  Did you know, for example, that in China, where cosleeping is taken for granted, SIDS is so rare that they don't even have a name for it.

Now, a lot of babies are dying in Allen County while sleeping with another person.  But these deaths are taking place outside of safe bedsharing guidelines.  For example, of the 13 unsafe-sleep deaths in Allen County last year, one infant was sleeping in a bed with five other children, despite safe bedsharing guidelines that specify that infants should not sleep next to older children.  One infant was sleeping in a bed with nine other children.  Nine.  Multiple infants were sleeping with parents on sofas, which also goes against safe bedsharing guidelines.  Drugs and alcohol were involved in several other deaths, the use of which is advised against in safe bedsharing guidelines.  One of these babies died improperly strapped into a carseat, which isn't even related to bedsharing.  And so on, and so forth.  So it isn't that people should never, ever, ever sleep with their babies - it's that if they want to sleep with their babies, they need to do so in a safe way.

Unfortunately, most people don't know what safe bedsharing guidelines are - if they even know such things exist.  The Department of Child Services campaign last summer did nothing to help with that problem - in fact, they may have made it worse.  A lot of people in this county have no idea that sleeping with a baby on a sofa is much, much more dangerous than sleeping with a baby on a firm mattress, so they just plop down on the couch with baby.  Which is not good at all, for anyone involved.

Birth Matters believes (and I concur) that families have the right to full information about safe infant sleep so that parents can make informed safe sleep choices for their children.  And so, in addition to crib and bassinet safety guidelines (which are completely legitimate sleep spaces, by the way - we utilize a crib as well, so this isn't a crazy, cosleeping elitist thing), this symposium will provide guidelines for safe cosleeping and bedsharing.

H is worked up about this whole thing because she doesn't like to hear that someone's baby died, and because she believes that unless people are educated about their options, they can't make safe sleep choices.  And because she believes that the state is limiting that education and that is hurting babies, and the Symposium is doing something about trying to make that right.

But I'm also worked up about this whole thing because I value my right to choose how and where my child sleeps safely, and because I know that if I don't step up and make a big fuss about it, there's a decent likelihood that I (and parents like me) will lose that right.

Maybe that's way too much information just to promote this Symposium.  But this isn't just something I'm endorsing because I like it or because it seems cool or because it is going to help people or give me the chance to love people better (although those are all true).  I'm endorsing this because it affects my rights as a citizen and because I believe it is my responsibility as a member of this community.  I'm endorsing it because it hits me in a place that you can't hit a parent without getting a reaction - it hits me in the spot where I strive with all of my heart and with all of my very being to care for Norah and raise her up in the best possible way I can - which means she needs to be safe when she sleeps, no matter where she sleeps.

So, if you're not busy Saturday (and we've already established that you're not, right?), come along for the ride.  Hear the guidelines for all kinds of safe infant sleep, empower yourself to make safe sleep choices, get a goody bag (come early!), win a giveaway, bid on an auction item!  Or if nothing on that list interests you in the slightest, just pop in to say hi to me - I'll be there all day!

For more information about the Symposium, visit

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